Steven CAMPBELL knows what it takes to survive an unexpected dunk into the drink. "You can increase your chances threefold by simply having a personal flotation device versus being thrown in the water without one," says the training coordinator for the Alaska Marine Safety Education Assn. Each year about 700 Americans die in boating-related accidents, mostly from drowning. "We feel that out of those 700, we can save 500 if they'd just wear a life jacket," says Virgil Chambers, of the International Boating & Water Safety Summit, which starts Sunday in Newport Beach and runs through March 16. On Monday, attendees will be testing out new personal flotation devices in the swimming pool at the Hyatt Regency where the conference is held. The summit coincides with a meeting of the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Assn. But to really drive home the importance of life jackets, the summit is sponsoring a contest with a $5,000 prize for anyone who comes up with an innovative design. "We want the contestants to think out of the box," Chambers says. "What can we get people to wear or to have that will keep them afloat? We're looking for a new device." About 350 attendees from law enforcement and other agencies also will hear presentations on homeland security, risk management, boating under the influence and preventing mishaps such as the one shown below. For details, go to www.safeboatingcouncil.org and www.nmma.org.
-- Scott Doggett